What should I expect?
A class on mathematical thinking.
"Last year I had a wonderful time with my small group of 10-13 year olds exploring the deeper side of arithmetic using James Tanton’s “Thinking Mathematics 1: Arithmetic, a Gateway to All”. I selected key questions from his text and posed them to the group. They worked together and separately to answer the question, come up with their own questions, answer those, draw and play and even eat cake! (It was a math cake of course!). I know at least a few of the kids were reluctant to join a math group, but they were very enthusiastic to solve the problems and even were able to derive their own formula for the nth term in a mathematical series.
"James Tanton’s texts are a great jumping off point because his questions about seemingly ordinary math lead to more questions and struggle and deeper thinking and understanding. I will draw inspiration from other books and puzzles and online resources as the need arises and the students need more challenges. The actual areas of math can vary widely according to interest and age of the current group. I try to pick problems addressing areas of math that are immediately useful to the students. Sometimes I just go for beauty or unusual and fun!
"Although we will inevitably learn very useful math in the process, the main goal is to practice mathematical thinking and improve our problem solving skills. There is a strong element of collaboration and most of the work will be done as a group, either in discussion or in sharing individual work. The most I talk is at the beginning of each session when I present the problem. After that I like to sit back and let the students find their own way. I am only there as a guide. I help students organize their thoughts and direction according to best problem solving principals. I am also there to help them talk and listen to each other and share ideas in a respectful and productive manner. I will also gently turn their words and rough description into math language so they slowly and naturally build their math vocabulary."
Who is this course for?
This course is great for anyone who wants to spend time enjoying math, building thinking skills and improving math vocabulary. It can be particularly helpful to reluctant math students. Group work builds confidence by leveling the playing field and taking the competition out of problem solving. It is a gentle way to build general problem solving skills that will carry through your entire life. The problems are always challenging for all levels, usually involving concepts that are new to even the more advanced students.
It is best to come to as many sessions in a row as possible. Each class will often build on concepts learned in a past session. Sometimes a problem takes more than one session to come to a conclusion. Regular sessions are also beneficial because the students can build a rapport with each other and myself and work more smoothly together. Developing mathematical thinking and problem solving skills takes time!
I am the mother of three children: ages 17, 11 and 3. I have a degree in Civil Engineering and extensive training in running Math Circles. More importantly I love math, theoretical math! After taking a break from math to try to study physics, then to actually study engineering and later flamenco dancing, and later start a family... I realized that I missed playing with math and actively studying it. So I have been studying on my own. At some point I realized that while I loved math I did not know how to share this love with others. It didn’t transfer. Why not? The search for that answer led me to meet Rodi Steinig (who runs a Math Circle through Talking Stick in Mt. Airy) and later to meet Bob and Ellen Kaplan (who run very successful Math Circles out of Harvard University) and take their training courses. Over the past several years I have met more and more math teachers who also strive to share the joy of math, and we all share ideas and resources with each other. I have run a few Math Circles and offered many of what I called “Math Fun Days” and “Math Salons”. This past year I ran a successful Math Exploration Group in which we explored middle school related math topics through fresh eyes. I would like to continue this group and extend it to high school related math subjects depending on interest. I have so many ideas for exciting, unusual and interesting math groups I would love to share with anyone who would like to find the joy in mathematics!